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Central govt retires custom officer accused of molesting Uzbek nationals

New Delhi: The Government of India has compulsorily retired a Customs Superintendent Devender Kumar Hooda under the Fundamental Rules 56 (j) due to allegations of sexual harassment and molestation.

The Group ‘B’ gazetted officer of General Commissionerate was positioned at the IGI Airport. He was charged with allegations of sexual harassment and molestation by a foreign lady passenger, an Uzebek passport holder, during the intervening night of May 2-3, 2019. He allegedly later let her go with two bags of contraband (cigarettes) which she was carrying. 

Department of Revenue (DoR) sources said that the matter was under investigation and since then post suspension of  Hooda and the departmental Screening Committee, Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and the Review Committee held detailed enquiries and finally recommended Mr. D K Hooda’s compulsory retirement under FR 56(j) on the charges of ‘gross misconduct’, ‘sexual harassment of grave nature’ besides casting ‘acute adverse impact on the image of the Department and lowering the morals of the officers of the service’.

Informed sources said that taking a holistic view of the record of the officer, the Review Committee concluded that “his (DK Hooda’s) conduct is such that his continuance in service would be a menace to public service and injurious to public interest.” The order of compulsory retirement has been served to the accused officer last Monday (on 21.12.20).

Sources explained that notwithstanding the order of the compulsory retirement, “the departmental inquiries and criminal proceedings, if any, against Sh. Devender Kumar Hooda, Superintendent will continue. Appropriate action may be taken by the disciplinary authority as and when the charges are proved” as compulsory retirement under 56(j) is not a punitive measure under Article 311 of the Constitution of India.

Narrating the incident, DoR sources in the know of the matter said that on the intervening night of May 2-3, 2019, the two female Uzbek passengers arrived from Tashkant by flight HY 421.One of them was taken outside CCTV coverage upon reaching the Green Channel and was detained for an hour and then was allowed to leave since no seizure of any contraband. The second female Uzbek passenger was similarly detained for over 30 minutes and then she, too, was released without any seizure of contraband. 

Both the passengers were confined alone in a room with DK Hooda, Superintendent without presence of any lady Custom officer and both the passengers were allegedly subjected to sexual harassment and molestation. Later, one of the lady passengers (name withheld) gave testimony to the ICC and identified the officer (DK Hooda) accusing him of “molesting”, and indulging in obscene sexual acts in the preventive room. 

Sources said that on compliant by AIU sources and further inquiry, analysis of video footage of Green Channel, etc., by screening and review committees,  Hooda was given compulsory retirement. Further, inquiries and criminal proceeding will continue.

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